ASHLAND — A handwritten note that reportedly made threatening statements and was found in a Southern Oregon University building Tuesday evening prompted Wednesday's closure of the Ashland campus.
University spokesman Ryan Brown said the note was found in the Education-Psychology Building. Police records show the note was reported at 7:39 p.m. College officials deemed the note threatening in nature and "immediately" reported to Ashland police, Brown said.
SOU administration determined canceling all classes and activities at the Ashland campus was the best course of action after discussing the find with law enforcement.
"Anytime there's something found that's deemed a threat, obviously the safety of our students is a number one priority," Brown said.
Operations at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford were not affected, he said. The main campus is set to reopen at 5 a.m. Thursday, university officials said.
Ashland police Deputy Chief Warren Hensman declined to discuss the note's contents because of the ongoing investigation, but said the note was clearly a message of violence against the campus.
"We were certainly concerned of some sort of violent event," Hensman said.
Ashland police Sgt. Mike Vanderlip said the agency assisted with extra security on campus Wednesday, with police officers stationed on campus grounds.
"Obviously we're going to do whatever we can to find out who wrote this note, and if we do, we're going to find what the intentions were and follow through with that," Vanderlip said.
Ashland police collected forensic evidence from the location where the note was found. It has been sent for processing. No estimated date for when that processing will conclude was available.
"A search of university facilities conducted jointly between Ashland Police Department and SOU found no additional threat to the campus," a post on the university's official Facebook page reads.
SOU President Roy Saigo addressed the situation in a Facebook message of his own, saying, "It saddens me to have to convey this message twice in less than a week, but again: students, please contact your parents and families if you haven't done so already and let them know you are alright. Thank you."
During the investigation, Ashland police will work jointly with the FBI, Oregon State Police Crime Lab, and a detective from Medford police.
This is the third incident in less than a week to close a southwest Oregon college campus. A gunman killed nine people, then himself, in an attack at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Oct. 1. The following Monday, Rogue Community College closed its Medford, White City and Grants Pass campuses following a reported bomb threat received by the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety.
Brown said the incidents have resulted in a heightened sense of awareness among students and faculty, but that the protocol and decision to close SOU's campus would have been the same without the UCC shooting.
"Certainly student safety would be the top consideration regardless of whether or not the tragedy at Umpqua had taken place less than a week ago," he said.
SOU officials encourage students to continue to be aware of their surroundings and report anything suspicious, including activity on social media, to campus public safety.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.